The Ripped Bodice is the only all-romance bookstore in the United States and also a dream vacation location for me. They also happen to be having a Book Club discussing Hold Me by Courtney Milan, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite romance novels so I thought I would “participate” from afar by hosting a book talk. I would like to have Book Talks fairly regularly so let me know if anything about this format doesn’t work for you or if there’s something you would really like to see! I will say that because this is basically a one person book club, there will be an abundance of spoilers so do not read past the divider if you haven’t read Hold Me!
Let us begin with a quick cover squeal because, y’all, that is a trans Latina woman on that cover! And an Asian man! AS IN, THE COVER OF THIS BOOK IS ACTUALLY REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CHARACTERS INSIDE OF IT. I am so delighted by this. And Courtney Milan has talked about the process of getting this cover and I am just so thankful that she was able to make this work. She’s talked a lot about how difficult it can be for authors who have to use stock photos because stock photos tend to be pretty white. So, in conclusion 10/10 for the cover here. The Me even matches my blog. How cute.
Now for a synopsis of this beautifully written, absolutely fabulous book. Maria is a trans, Latina woman, who has an enviable ability to walk in high heels (someone please teach me this skill), is about to graduate college, and oh yeah, has a super successful and very popular blog where she contemplates various methods the world can end. Her blog is so popular that she frequently has fancy scientist people emailing her and wanting her to do all of these cool things. But she’s anonymous. She has a virtual friendship with one of her fans who goes by Actual Physicist (she goes by Em).
The book begins with Maria going to meet her brother at her brother’s friend’s lab. Her brother’s friend is Jay and they dislike each other immediately. So, obviously, Jay is Actual Physicist and their relationship dynamic is incredible to watch because you get to see both Em and Actual Physicist talking about their days and Jay recognizing when he messes up with Maria in real life. This is genuinely one of the best hate to love romance novels I’ve ever read in my life. Also, Jay is Asian American and also bisexual (I think?). This book is diverse, delightful, and utter perfection.
And there ends the spoiler free section of this Book Talk! Now for pretending I’m in a book club by myself because I don’t know anyone else in real life who has read this yet. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK AND SQUEAL OVER IT WITH ME.
Wait, what are you supposed to talk about in a book club? Turns out, I don’t know what I’m doing, so please provide feedback if this starts turning in some tangent of me squealing about how wonderful this book is.
Topic One: Let’s talk about sex, baby.
Priority number one for me in regards to sex in romance novels–scratch that, in literally anything where sex is mentioned–is consent specifically obtained? Priority number two, is the topic of STDs/pregnancy prevention discussed? If no to either of those things, there had best be a reason for it, you know?
So, let’s talk about sex in this novel. Consent gets a BIG check mark. Despite being a hate to love, Jay and Maria don’t get frisky for real until they’ve worked through that. I don’t specifically remember a conversation about STDs (pregnancy prevention not being an issue), but I’m 99% sure Courtney Milan would not have left that out because she’s amazing and wonderful.
Turning to still high priority questions, but slightly less high on the list: was the sex actually sexy?
Um. Yes! Always. You can trust Courtney Milan for that, y’all. If you don’t like well described sex scenes, you should skip this book, but you’re missing out!
Topic Two: Is the Hate to Love Trope a disaster or perfection?
The hate to love trope can be an unwieldy one, you know? Like, there’s a risk that the hatred is so real and genuine because one of the characters is irredeemable or because they have true fundamental differences that are impossible to overcome. But when it works, it really works. For me anyway.
So, are the relationship dynamics in Hold Me (a) healthy, (b) believable, and (c) shippable? Answer to all of the above is YES. I genuinely felt like Maria and Jay built a really solid relationship that could definitely go the distance. They knew each other so well as Em and Actual Physicist so once they finally realized one another’s identities and worked through that, I felt like their relationship was really strong. And, in case my excitement about Maria and Jay was not apparent enough, I AM OBSESSED WITH THEM. They are so shippable!
I also love Tina and Blake (from book one in this series and book three, I believe) so I was so happy to glimpse them as well!
Topic Three: Is this book good while reading it, but then you just forget everything that happened?
Um, no. Not at all. I finished reading this book on March 14, 2017 and I (a) loved it and (b) still remember most everything. Or at least the important parts. Courtney Milan is a really amazing writer and even if you have virtually nothing in common with Maria or Jay (like, I hate science, y’all), you’ll definitely find something in this book to relate to.
Topic Four: Girl Hate or Nah?
NAH. Maria and Tina are roommates and besties and I just adore their relationship. Maria is also super girly. She loves makeup and high heels and doesn’t think any of that makes her less than what she is (because it doesn’t). One of my favorite parts of this book is watching Maria call out Jay for his ridiculously outdated notions of femininity and intelligence. He knows he messed up and I just really appreciated seeing that call out on the page.
In conclusion, I hope not only that you read this book, but that you join me in devouring all of Courtney Milan’s backlist (two novellas to go on my end) and supporting her incredibly amazing self forever and ever.
If you’ve read Hold Me, leave a comment and let me know what you thought! If you also love Courtney Milan, please let me know so we can commence fangirling together because right now I don’t know anyone in real life who has gotten around to her books yet. On the bright side, that means some people are likely in for a very book-ish Christmas!